LOS ANGELES - I got a chance Tuesday to talk to Electronic Arts Sports general manager of football Cam Weber about the upcoming EA Sports "NCAA Football 14" at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the annual trade fair for the computer and video game industry. Many companies like EA use E3 to show its latest innovations. No doubt, I was ready to take a look at the college football version.
This might just be me, but the college game lags just a touch behind the Madden franchise. Yet, they've made great strides last year, especially with the passing features. You can lob passes and "drop it into the bucket" of your receiver, which is awesome when you build your squad around speedy receivers.
Plus, they eliminated the leaping linebackers. Holy heck! Those leaping linebackers in the older versions were more maddening than the traffic on the 110 freeway leaving the Los Angeles Convention Center.
I figured I wouldn't have to invest in a new copy this year. I normally upgrade my NCAA game about once every two or three years. I really like to build dynasties. My current UNLV dynasty is close to its third national championship, and there is an awesome recruiting class behind it. (Although the Adam Rank Jr. I created in recruiting mode is headed to UCLA ... ungrateful computer-generated kids.) So that was that, I figured I would save my money and be cool with last year's version.
Weber was quick to point out that I was wrong about this.
For starters, the game play has been improved with more than 30 different option types. And I love the option. As you can tell, I typically don't start my dynasty with USC, Oregon or SEC schools. I like to build up small schools. I'm like the gamer version of Boise State's Chris Petersen. So I like to recruit those speedy quarterbacks who can run.
The option also is much better in the new version. Too many times you flip the ball into nowhere. That has been improved. You can even highlight a defensive player to read, so it makes the game more authentic. You can tell Weber appreciates the realism because he was a quarterback at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
Before you ask, no, none of those fake universities you can stack your roster with is modeled after SFU. (Weber does have the pull to make this happen. He should do it.)
Even then, the option isn't enough to make me go after this game. But then Weber said the words that were music to my ears: improved recruiting.
Remember the older games that had the phone calls? My favorite was the call meter that featured the kid's face, which would become enraged if you talked too much about on-campus atmosphere.
The phone calls are gone. (Thankfully) Instead, you invest points into recruits you really want to go after. So each week, you can adjust your point totals accordingly.
And then there is a brand new coaching tree with 18 upgradeable, multi-level skills spread across two skill trees for head coaches, as well as separate skill trees for offensive and defensive coordinators. You can decide on what kind of coach you want to be. Although "break a bunch of rules, get your team on probation and then bolt to the NFL" isn't currently an option. It should be.
What does that all mean? NCAA football is once again going to get my money when I buy this year's version of the game. I'm a sucker for the recruiting, and anything that can streamline the process a little bit is a bonus. Honestly, when you play enough dynasties, the recruiting calls can be a bit tedious.
And seriously, I'm so tired of the "academic reputation" as one of the pitches. Nobody is coming to my UNLV dynasty because of the academic reputation. (Not that UNLV is a bad school. It's not good in the game, and there is no way to improve that part of your school.) Anything to make that easier will make it that much better.
Maybe this time around, I can get my fake kid to come to my school, too.